If you're looking for a prime example of how fickle the NFL is, look no further than the San Francisco 49ers.
In their first three seasons under head coach Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers went a combined 36-11-1 in the regular season. They made it to the NFC Championship Game in all three seasons, winning the middle one for a trip to the Super Bowl (where they eventually lost to Baltimore). They were widely regarded as one of the best franchises in the league during that stretch.
The Buffalo Bills, 8-6 and in need of two wins and help to end their 14-year playoff drought, could really use a win from those 49ers tonight against the 8-6 San Diego Chargers. Those 49ers, however, already seem long gone, replaced by a middling 7-7 outfit and on the verge of a coaching change, as difficult as that is to believe.
San Diego, of course, is one of several teams vying with Buffalo for two wild card spots in the AFC. It is especially important that they lose one of their remaining two teams because, when Buffalo and San Diego met in Week 3 this season, the Chargers won rather handily, 22-10. The Bills would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker to Philip Rivers and crew, but it would also be nice if the Bills had the option of San Diego beating Kansas City next weekend - so really, it'd be great if the Chargers could get their loss out of the way tonight.
Which brings us back to San Francisco. They were once 7-4, and poised to make another run at the NFC playoffs, but they have since lost three straight games - two of them to Seattle (and the third to Oakland, Buffalo's Week 16 opponent) - and have been officially eliminated from playoff contention. With a coaching change likely forthcoming (again - wow), they're not playing for much aside from professional pride. Here's to hoping that pride is enough to handle the Chargers this evening.
This is your open thread for the important 49ers-Chargers tilt about to kick off. Go 49ers!